The overall crime rate for the city of Rochester in 2018 saw a slight increase from the previous year but is still down compared to the five years before that, according to state crime reports.
The Rochester Police Department crime rate for serious offense crimes, or Part I crimes, was at 2,277 in 2018, compared to 2,060 in 2017. The list of Part I offenses consists of criminal homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny.
These numbers are part of the 2018 Uniform Crime Report released by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension earlier this month. Police departments and sheriff’s offices from across the state submit data to the BCA to be compiled as part of the report.
"It can be difficult to know why crime increases," Rochester Police Capt. Casey Moilanen said of the uptick in the city.
"We have been working really hard to build trust and transparency with the community, and studies have shown there are a number of crimes that are not reported to the police for a number of reasons," he said. "With us trying to build trust and transparency with the community, we might be seeing more people willing to contact us and report crimes."
Moilanen said that crime typically rises with growth in population and population density.
The BCA defines crime rate as the "number of crimes reported by law enforcement per 100,000 in population." It is calculated by dividing the number of index crimes by the population of the community then multiplying the answer by 100,000. This calculation allows communities of varying sizes to be compared on a more equal standing.
Rochester’s crime statistics seem to buck the statewide trend of a decrease in murder and an increase in rape.
But even with the small increase, Rochester’s serious crime rate has dropped since its seven-year peak in 2012 when 2,812 Part I offenses were reported.
Rochester police also investigated five murders last year — a substantial increase from one in 2017. The change, Moilanen said, was "definitely an anomaly" and something that hasn't occurred since 2008.
Rochester police reported a slight decrease in incidents of rape (58) and robbery (41) in 2018 compared to 61 and 46 reported in 2017. Reports of aggravated assault (123), burglary (353), larceny (1,952) and motor vehicle theft (130) were also up in 2018, compared with 116, 288, 1,757 and 98 in 2017.
The crime rate for less serious crime, such as weapons violations, vandalism, stolen property and drug abuse violations are at the lowest level in the past seven years.
Rochester’s clearance rate is above the state average and is the second-highest when compared with the seven other largest cities in Minnesota, according to information provided by the police department. At 50%, Rochester is behind the Bloomington Police Department’s 57% but well above Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth whose clearance rates are 19%, 28% and 34% respectively.
A crime can be considered cleared if at least one person was arrested, cited or appeared in court based on a summons. A crime can also be considered clear by law enforcement if an offender commits suicide, a double murder occurs, an offender is killed by a law enforcement officer, if a victim of a crime refuses to cooperate in the prosecution or an offender confesses to committing the crime while already in custody for another crime. Clearance though does not mean a conviction as the number reflects law enforcement’s efforts, not the court system's. The yearly clearance rates agencies report to the BCA in the calendar year may pertain to offenses that occurred in previous years.
"Technology has really played a role in our investigations," Moilanen said. "It takes our investigators a lot more time to investigate the cases that they are assigned so they don't have as much time to investigate as many cases as they previously would have been able to and we haven't added any investigators so without adding staff to make up that difference, in years to come, you may see that slide a little bit because we — don't have the resources to make up that difference."
In the report, the BCA states that comparisons between previous years should be viewed with caution as the way in which crimes are categorized can change from year to year due to a number of things including statute changes and clarifications from the FBI.
Numbers that aren't included in the BCA's report include the department's overall calls for service as well as traffic stops — all things that require police resources and aren't always crimes. In 2018, officers were dispatched to 63,838 calls for service and conducted 9,380 traffic stops, according to patrol division statistics included department's own annual report published earlier this summer.